DETROIT -- The Tigers are not expected to pursue a new contract with shortstop Jose Iglesias before their exclusive negotiating window expires Friday evening. They're not expected to jump into talks when Iglesias is free to sign with any team after that, either.If there's a window for Iglesias and the
DETROIT -- The Tigers are not expected to pursue a new contract with shortstop Jose Iglesias before their exclusive negotiating window expires Friday evening. They're not expected to jump into talks when Iglesias is free to sign with any team after that, either.
If there's a window for Iglesias and the Tigers to reunite, it's later in the offseason, if both the player and the team are still looking for a match. Until then, both Iglesias and the Tigers are expected to explore the market.
"It's always a possibility," general manager Al Avila said near season's end, "but we have to look at the whole picture and see all the players that will be available and see where the best fit is for us."
This is the moment for which both sides have been planning. The Tigers fielded trade interest in Iglesias for the better part of two years with the idea of moving on as part of their rebuild. Iglesias, in turn, changed his representation to Magnus Sports before the 2017 season with an eye towards the eventual market.
Those respective plans, however, hit some bumps along the way. The Tigers never traded Iglesias, finding limited interest in a deal through multiple offseasons and two Trade Deadlines. But along the way, their shortstop-in-waiting plans faltered when Dixon Machado -- whom the Tigers carried on their roster as a little-used reserve in 2017 to avoid losing him -- struggled at second base this past season. After eight doubles in April, Machado was batting .206 (44-for-214) with a .553 OPS when Detroit designated him for assignment on July 5.
Machado, who turns 27 in February, is not expected to fit into the club's future. Detroit has a pair of shortstops on the rise in Willi Castro, acquired from Cleveland in the Leonys Martin trade, and Sergio Alcantara, acquired from Arizona in the J.D. Martinez deal in 2017.
Castro, the Tigers' 10th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has had an impressive winter season in the Dominican League, batting .302 (16-for-53) through Tuesday with a pair of home runs for Escogido.
"Bat and glove both look good," one talent evaluator said on his way through the Dominican League this week.
Alcantara, ranked 21st among Tigers prospects by MLB Pipeline, just began his winter-ball season in the Dominican League for Licey. But neither Alcantara nor Castro are expected to compete for a big league job next spring, having spent the majority of the summer in Double-A ball.
That leaves the Tigers looking for a stopgap shortstop until Castro or Alcantara is ready. Detroit would prefer a veteran shortstop to stabilize what will likely be an otherwise young infield, especially if Dawel Lugo makes the roster at second base. And that will leave the team tracking the shortstop market as it unfolds.
The top-end of the market, notably Manny Machado, is out of their reach. After that, however, the second-tier market has a glut of starters who could end up fighting for the same jobs in a musical-chairs-like shuffle.
Former Marlins and Rays starting shortstop, Adeiny Hechavarria, is an appealing candidate based on strong defensive metrics and respectable offense. But he ended last season as a utility infielder with the Yankees, who could opt to re-sign him as a short-term starter while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Like Iglesias, Hechavarria is represented by Magnus Sports.
Freddy Galvis has been an ironman at shortstop, playing every game at the position over the past two years between Philadelphia and San Diego and drawing strong metrics. But the soon-to-be 29-year-old could end up drawing a multi-year deal for his work.
Jordy Mercer and Alcides Escobar have posted strong track records in Pittsburgh and Kansas City, respectively, but both are on the older side and saw a statistical drop-off defensively this year. Mercer is 32, while Escobar turns 33 in mid-December and ended the season at third base for the Royals.
Then there's Iglesias, who rated better defensively than Mercer and Escobar the last couple years and turns 29 years old in January. The Tigers know him, and he knows the system, as well as the style of play manager Ron Gardenhire is trying to instill.
The Tigers could also opt to stock up on versatility and platoon another utility player with Niko Goodrum at short, though that option seems less likely given the quest for stability at the spot.
Much like last offseason, the Tigers aren't expected to have the luxury of outspending teams as they continue trying to manage payroll. What Detroit has, however, is time. With no expectations to contend in 2019, the club doesn't have to target a candidate early and beat clubs to the signature.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.